One Year After Katrina, New Orleans Employers See Operations in New Light
August 25, 2006
Immediately after Katrina, food and facility services provider Sodexho faced its biggest challenge: finding its 1,400 widely scattered New Orleans employees. The company went to great lengths to locate them, bringing in personnel from unaffected states to look for workers at their homes. They also assembled teams to make phone calls and rented a plane with a banner bearing Sodexho contact information to fly over the Houston Astrodome, where thousands of people from New Orleans had been relocated in the weeks after Katrina. It also set up an 800 number so employees could access information and leave their contact numbers and addresses.
Once Sodexho located employees,
its next challenge was paying them. "They're an hourly wage population, and they live paycheck to paycheck. We wired money to hundreds of locations."
--Sharon Natthews, Sodexho
For insurer State Farm, dealing with disaster is core to its business. It's not surprising that the company has a specially trained catastrophe services force of 2,600 employees ready to travel to stricken areas within 24 hours and stay for as long as six months to handle claims.
Energy company Entergy's corporate headquarters staff of 1,500 was housed in two buildings in downtown New Orleans when Katrina struck. Afterward, corporate headquarters was temporarily moved to Jackson, Mississippi.
Tulane University, the largest private employer in New Orleans, sustained $400 million in losses, including $160 million in property damage, and the school closed for the fall 2005 semester. Of the 110 buildings spread across the university's two city campuses, 85 were damaged by wind and flooding. Ultimately, only two buildings were irremediably ruined, but repairing and renovating the others was costly.